Suu Kyi Is Neither ‘Nobel’, Nor ‘Peaceful’

Suu Kyi

In a world wrecked by hatred manifested in various forms, be they rationalized religious wars, systemic violence against marginalized communities, random acts of bloodshed, or bullying and verbal abuse that leaves emotional scars, peace is an idealized utopian concept. It is a state that all of us claim to aspire for, but never intend to aspire to, because that would imply giving up or fighting against the status quo that assigns us power. Even marginalization has levels of dominance and exploitation, but it will be farcical to quantify it for comparison. So, world peace is justified when achieved with force, and peace is confused with stability or absence of chaos. But violence is so strongly ingrained in socialization that structures do not need to appear physically or tangibly violent, because obedience to them will be regarded as peaceful anyway. However, when we think of peace, a few names come instantly to mind- Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai, Kailash Satyarthi, Aung San Suu Kyi…

This may lead us to rhetorical questions. If Hitler had been unsuccessful in massacring thousands of innocents, and was stopped before he could do major harm, would he be still quoted as a ‘villain’ of history? If his justification for the ‘Jewish question’ (that is, his worldview) was accepted by the world at large, as valid, would his ethnic cleansing be glorified? If he argued that his supporters’ actions or state’s actions were motivated by something completely unrelated to him, would he still be held accountable? That is, if he claimed that his Gestapo went out of hand, or his military leaders enjoyed greater say in the country, or the world was unnecessarily dwelling on ‘misinformation’ or ‘fake news’ spread by ‘suspicious international agencies’, would we believe him? No, we couldn’t have because then we would be held morally accountable for grave injustice. No, we wouldn’t have, because stories of joy or suffering always have a way of crossing borders and covering great distances. Some escaped Jew/homosexual/Communist etc., somewhere, would have told someone. Or the charred remains of murdered Jews would bear witness.

One only has to locate these rationalizations in the context of the Myanmar state’s ethnic cleansing-bordering-on-genocide pattern of rape, torture, indiscriminate killing, systematic brutalization and abject degradation of its Rohingya Muslims. Many critics, including former Nobel Peace Prize winners have condemned Daw Suu Kyi for her complicity in the destruction of an entire population, one that the government refuses to consider as citizens by calling them ‘Bengali’ instead of Rohingya so as to connote their ‘foreign’ identity of ‘immigrants’. This baseless accusation has been disproved by official documentation recording the existence of Rohingyas since 1799, but it nevertheless led to the military junta’s 1982 decree taking away their right to citizenship. Many defend Suu Kyi’s stance by asserting that her political matrix is not conducive to her attacking the army’s stand, but this certainly does not excuse her from dismissing the issue as ‘unimportant’ or ‘fake news’ about ‘terrorists’ circulated by international human rights agencies. The idol of liberty, democracy and peace, her Nobel Prize acceptance speech in which she said, “Ultimately our aim should be to create a world free from the displaced, the homeless and the hopeless, a world of which each and every corner is a true sanctuary where the inhabitants will have the freedom and the capacity to live in peace,” gives the strongest critique for her hypocrisy. Understandably, the West is upset. But the focus on her returning the Nobel Prize is acceptable, but misplaced.

Suu Kyi’s state is run by an elite Buddhist majority that believes in the concept of dukha, but fails to realize it in its deplorable treatment of innocents. It practices the constructs of apartheid, evident in the strict ethnic segregation of Rohingyas in physical, legal, and economic spaces, sounds like lebensraum, and has progressed onto the path of genocide. “What we are seeing now, in the last week, is almost history repeating itself in a horrific way.” (Amnesty International) Is Suu Kyi a foreboding of things to come, is she one of the new modern day breed of Hitlers?

Our anger for Suu Kyi’s culpability, will not give the displaced Rohingyas homes, rights or resources for survival. India’s draft law about not considering Parsi, Sikh, Christian, and Buddhist immigrants as ‘foreigners’ appears inclusive and sensitive at face value, but it specifically rejects Muslim refugees. Bangladesh’s grim refugee camps are sites of backbreaking poverty, desperation, and inadequate facilities for ‘the world’s most persecuted minority’. Our media may record their stories, and spread the word of tortured souls to evoke public sympathy, but our sympathy is momentary. The world will move on. It will hold a grudge against Suu Kyi and stop viewing her as a benign liberal. But, it will forget about thousands of lives lost and rapidly losing as ‘dead souls’. Happymon Jacob reflects on whether peace can exist without justice for a community that is not ‘strategically valuable’ for anyone. For the Rohingyas, he says, “It is as though they have been expelled from humanity itself.”

– Contributed by Tript

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